Bucharest Things to Do Tips by Dabs
Bucharest Things to Do: 752 reviews and 1,729 photos
The Cismigiu Gardens is the most central of Bucharest's parks, it was a nice place to take a break of touring through Bucharest. The 17 hectare garden is centered around a lake, it was first laid out by German landscape architect Carl Meyer in 1845 but not completed until 1860
We didn't spend a lot of time here so I don't think we saw the Roman Garden or the busts of Romania's most famous writers but we did see the monument to French soldiers killed on Romanian soil during World War I (the Great War) by Ion Jalea.
The most beautiful building we saw in Bucharest was the Romanian Athenaeum (Ateneul Roman), a concert hall opened in 1888 in a building designed by French architect Albert Galleron.
Some of the funding for the building came from a 20+ year funding raising effort from the publicwith the slogan "Dati un leu pentru Ateneu!" (Give one leu for the Ateneu!). Had we stayed in Bucharest for a longer period of time, I would have loved to see a performance here, alas all we got to see was the exterior of the building.
We stopped by Herastrau Park after our visit to the Village Museum, it's the largest park in Bucharest and is located on the shore of Herastrau Lake. We had a lovely stroll along the lakefront through the garden.
You can rent paddle boats on the lake.
Directions: Metro(subway) "Aviatorilor"
Is Frodo home?
Near Lake Herastrau, the open air Village Museum is a collection of over 60 different styles of original buildings from all over Romania that have been brought to Bucharest. If you should not have a chance to get outside the city, you can see here examples of churches, rural farms, cottages, windmills and homes that you would see in the different regions of Romania. Each building, most of which are from the 19th century, has a plaque showing which part of Romania it was brought from.
My particular favorite was the wooden church from Maramures since we did not make it to that part of Romania on our trip. Also the earth houses of Straja, dug in to the ground and topped with thatched rooves, it seemed like they were Hobbit houses right out of Lord of the Rings.
House of Parliament
Ceausescu's lasting legacy is the Palace of Parliament, formerly known as the People's Palace, believed to be the 2nd largest building in the world behind the Pentagon.
Ceausescu got the idea for this monstrosity after visiting Kim II Sung’s North Korea in 1972. He wanted to build the largest, most opulent palace in the world and he did just that at the expense of the Romanian people. He was determined to pay off the foreign debt caused by the construction and did so by starving the Romanian people, sending most of the agricultural product overseas.
Guided tours are given in several different languages, we had to wait about a 1/2 hour for an English guided tour as they do not leave on any scheduled basis.
Our guide was a rather curt young lady who threatened sanctions against people who might wander off the tour or take photos without paying the required fee of 300,000 lei ($11 US). Although she asked if there were any questions numerous times, her answer to most was "officially I can't answer that". Whether the propaganda machine was still in effect here or whether she truly didn't know remains a mystery. Among those questions unanswered were how many people died during construction, how many floors were below ground, whether or not there were underground tunnels and how much it cost to build the place.
The tour only visits about 5% of the Palace, it's hard not to be impressed by the craftsmenship of the marble staircases, solid wood doors, crystal chandeliers and oriental carpets. However, I found the Palace be aesthetically unappealing, rather it left me feeling cold. The visit includes a view from the balcony where Ceausescu planned on addressing the people but he was dead by the time it was finished in 1990. Michael Jackson was the first to use it, our guide said he said "Hello Budapest" not remembering where he was :-)
A little taste of Paris
If you are driving up near Herastrau Park or the Village Museum, you should pass by the Arcul de Triumf, Bucharest's version of the famous Arc de Triomphe in Paris.
The original structure, made out of wood, was built in 1922 to commemorate the dead from WWI and was replaced by the current concrete/granite structure in 1935.
One of the guidebooks says you can climb to the top of the monument, but I never saw people on top of it nor did I see any possible way to get the the arch without getting flattened by crazy Bucharest drivers. I had to be content with taking a picture from the car window.
Address: Piata Arcul de Triumf
Directions: Soseaua Kiseleff, just south of Herastrau Park
The guidebooks said this the best museum in Bucharest and one of the best in the country and it was voted the European Museum of the year in 1996 so we headed here on our last day in Bucharest.
The exhibits are well laid out, you can find cards in most of the rooms with descriptions in several languages. There are two wooden churches and a cottage from the northern region of the country on display, one of the churches is outside. Displays in the rooms include Romanian clothes, pottery, stained glass icons and a full Romanian classroom.
In the basement of the museum is the Communist Iconography Museum with paintings of Stalin, bust of Lenin and portraits of some dictator I don't recognize, perhaps Ceausescu's predecessor.
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